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Manning must not budge

November 25, 2000
By Gerald Pilgrim

I refer to the Express editorial of November 23, 2000 titled "Right of Belonging".

It is truly a sad day when a national newspaper can publish an editorial so riddled with inaccuracies and so muddled in its thinking on a subject as important as the requirements of our Constitution and consequently, the rule of law.

There is no inconsistency between the Citizenship Act and the Constitution. One establishes the requirements of citizenship; the other establishes the requirements to become a Member of Parliament. They are entirely different standards.

For instance, in the US, a significant portion of the population is excluded from the possibility of becoming the president by the requirement that the president be born in the US.

Additionally, to be elected to the House of Representatives or Senate in the US, you can be a naturalised citizen, but one of at least seven and nine years standing respectively.

In T & T, there is an age stipulation to become both a member of Parliament and a senator. That should put to rest the canard that there should now be inconsistencies between the latest versions of the Citizenship Act and the Constitution.

Being a citizen does not make you eligible to be an MP, there are and always have been additional requirements.

Indeed, the only requirement to be prime minister of this country is that you be a MP. By extension, it should be perfectly in order for Mr Panday, Mr Manning, or any other aspirant to that office to have an allegiance to a foreign country.

However, the most cogent and simplest argument against Mr Peter's and Mr Chaitan's candidacies is that it is unambiguously unconstitutional.

The Express editorial incredulously ends, "if the PNM should be small-minded enough to object, let them remember that there was once a PNM minister who was a citizen".

First of all, Basil Ince was an appointed senator and secondly, the PNM or any other organisation ought not be party to open and flagrant illegality and subversion of the constitutional and the rule of law.

Office holders pledge to uphold the Constitution, the whole Constitution, not just parts that they like or operate in their favour.

Finally, the "small-minded" PNM should not allow this chicanery to stand. Mr Chaitan and Mr peters, aspirants to legislative and executive office, did not understand the nomination forms to which they affixed their signatures.

Eminent counsels in the UNC, like Mr Panday and Mr Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, did not understand it either? Nonsense! I hope that the powers that be are similarly understanding of people who "unknowingly" file false affidavits in the court and on loan documents etc.

Mr Manning, you do not have the option of being as irresponsible as the Express in imploring that the Constitution be ignored. If the people are of the view that constitutional requirements are outmoded-fine, then change the law.

However, we don't change the law on the fly when it suits our purposes of the moment. Mr Manning, do not let this brazen illegality stand!

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